(Crime d’Amour), 106 mins, rated M, opens in cinemas 4
By MICHELE ASPREY, Lawyer
(This is my review as published in
the August 2011 issue of The
NSW Law Society Journal)
Love Crime is 3 films in one.
For the first 45 minutes or so, it’s a tense drama of office politics.
Kristin Scott-Thomas, in cracking form, is a passive-aggressive boss
who likes to manipulate her underlings. Her bright young
protégée (Ludivine Sagnier) is willing to take a few low
blows from her boss for the good of the company. Add an office romance,
and sexual attraction – then competition – between the boss and the
young executive, and you have a potent mix.
But that’s not all. Suddenly we are plunged into a murder mystery – the
kind that Hitchcock would have loved. To Hitch, it was never important
whodunit. What interested him was the suspense involved in finding out
whether the innocents can prove their innocence, and whether justice is
done in the end.
In Love Crime we see the
crime at about the half-way point, but things only get more complicated
from there. You may work out what’s going on soon enough, but there’s
still the detail of how and why it happened, and whether the culprit
will get away with it. In a whodunit, that’s part of the fun, even if
it sometimes stretches credulity.
The third part of the film is pure police procedural. Lawyers will be
interested to see the French “inquisitorial” system of justice in
action. Once the police prepare the case, and a confession is obtained,
it is handed to the judge to run. In the English subtitles, this is
glossed over, and the senior person who runs the case after the
confession might appear to be a senior detective. But if you understand
a little French, you will hear the defence lawyer identifying him as
“Monsieur le juge”. The role of the judge is extensive, even after the
case has been resolved.
This is not a flashily directed film. It’s director and co-writer was
Alain Corneau (Tous les Matins du
Monde, 1991). Sadly, he died just 2 weeks after the film’s
release in France, of lung cancer, aged 67. Some critics have dismissed
him as a “journeyman” director, but Love
Crime has some stylistic elements about it that I particularly
First, for a film with 3 distinct sections, it scoots along, running a
little over one-and-three-quarter hours. Next, Corneau gives the film a
wonderfully anodyne look – sleek and corporate –¬ which makes the
murder itself feel all the creepier. The scenes in the gaol are shot to
look just as sleek, grey and clinical as the scenes in the high-rise
offices. Finally, I like the way the flashbacks look like grainy
black-and-white footage from a security camera. This is even more
effective, given there’s a sequence where actual security camera
footage proves crucial to the motive for the crime.
The bilingual Scott-Thomas (Sarah’s
Key, 2010, Nowhere Boy, 2009, Gosford
Park, 2001, The English
Patient, 1996), who has lived in France since she was 19, plays
Christine with frightening “froideur”. She toys with her underlings,
takes credit for their ideas, then suggests that she’s only trying to
teach them how to get ahead in this cynical world. Ludivine Sagnier (8 Women, 2002, Swimming Pool, 2003) is her
extremely competent junior executive – at first, she’s a bright,
obedient lackey, but she soon learns how the world works, and begins to
apply her considerable management skills (she’s “borderline obsessive”)
to the problem at hand.
US director Brian de Palma has his eye on Love Crime for a Hollywood remake,
to be called Passion. That’s
not surprising, given de Palma is a great Hitchcock fan. But don’t wait
for that version, due in 2012. If you see the French original, you can
impress friends with your knowledge of the role of the judge in the
French judicial system. For lawyers, the American version of Love Crime can’t possibly have that